Rep. Devin Nunes' Hypocrisy On Display In 'Concerns' Over NSA Surveillance

from the let's-try-this-again... dept

We've talked about the astounding hypocrisy of Rep. Devin Nunes a few times in the past. He heads the House Intelligence Committee, which is supposed to be conducting "oversight" of the intelligence community, but has generally been a cheerleader for mass surveillance in recent years. Nunes, in fact, has regularly slammed any attempt to cut back on surveillance, to the point of actively misleading the public in making false claims about how NSA surveillance programs work. The hypocrisy became clear when Nunes flipped out following the firing/resignation of Mike Flynn as National Security Advisor, arguing that it was somehow unprecedented that an American's phone calls with Russian officials were recorded by the intelligence community. Of course, that suggests either near total ignorance of the programs he's supposedly in charge of overseeing, or just blatant political pandering.

And now it's getting worse. Reporter Katie Bo Williams got her hands on an interesting letter that Nunes, along with ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff, just sent to the heads of the CIA, NSA and FBI, continuing to dig in on the whole "recorded Mike Flynn" thing. The target now is Executive Order 12333, which we've spoken about quite a lot. That's the executive order signed by President Reagan, that more or less gives the intelligence community total free rein in conducting surveillance overseas. As an ex-State Department official revealed back in 2014, the vast majority of NSA surveillance actually is done under 12333, and it just uses other programs -- like Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act and Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act -- to fill in the gaps of what they can't get via 12333. Executive Order 12333, for example, was used to hack into Yahoo and Google's servers overseas, allowing the NSA to scoop up lots of info without any oversight by US courts.

Anyway, based on the letter that Nunes has sent, he's suddenly quite concerned about 12333. And this demonstrates his massive hypocrisy, because another letter he sent a few years ago has him arguing that there should be less oversight on 12333... but we'll get to that. This new letter suggests that the Flynn recording came under 12333, and so he's demanding all sorts of data on how 12333 is used on US Persons.

Of course, what's interesting here is that the Congressional intelligence committees have long stated that they don't really have much oversight into anything under 12333. Dianne Feinstein (who was a top member of the Senate Intelligence Committee) admitted in the past that the committees get zero insight into 12333 intelligence collection:

“The other programs do not (have the same oversight as FISA). And that’s what we need to take a look at,” she said, adding that her committee has not been able to “sufficiently” oversee the programs run under the executive order. “Twelve-triple-three programs are under the executive branch entirely.”

Feinstein has also said the order has few, if any, privacy protections. “I don’t think privacy protections are built into it,” she said. “It’s an executive policy. The executive controls intelligence in the country.”

Got that? Good. At least when Feinstein was bringing it up, she was bringing it up to argue that the Intel Committees should be getting more insight into what 12333 is used for.

However, Devin Nunes, apparently wanted it to be kept in the dark. And wanted the public kept in the dark. That's because I just received in a surprisingly well-timed FOIA response, a letter that Nunes, along with Senate Intel Committee boss Richard Burr, sent a letter to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) back in 2015, basically telling the PCLOB to stop looking into 12333, because it was outside its purview. As you may recall, after doing detailed reports on Sections 215 and 702, the PCLOB announced that it was going to do a detailed study on 12333 to determine if it was violating the privacy and civil liberties of Americans. While that was announced way back in 2014, nothing final ever came out -- and it's unlikely to ever come out because the PCLOB is effectively dead.

But Nunes and Burr were apparently so concerned that the PCLOB might find actual problems with 12333 and how it violates the rights of Americans, that they made it clear that the PCLOB should knock it off:

As we are sure you are aware, intelligence activities conducted under E.O. 12333 address a broad range of national security issues beyond counterterrorism, including significant and important foreign intelligence matters that fall well outside of the PCLOB's limited statutory charter. Many intelligence activities conducted under E.O. 12333 predate the creation of the PCLOB and were not within the scope that the 9/11 Commission or Congress envisioned when PCLOB was established. The purpose is clear and specifically defined by Congress.

We trust you will keep in mind the finite statutory authority as you move forward and work with the Intelligence Community to limit appropriately your review only to those matters which Congress has specifically authorized you to review.

In other words, just two years ago, Devin Nunes was telling the one body in the government specifically tasked with reviewing intelligence collection programs to see how they're being used on Americans, that they should stop doing that. And now, today, he's suddenly demanding to know how the intelligence community uses 12333 to spy on Americans -- as if it had never crossed his mind before that the program was used this way.

This is not effective oversight. This is a hypocritical joke by the name of Rep. Devin Nunes.


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  • icon
    sigalrm (profile), 16 Mar 2017 @ 11:37am

    Oversight - You keep using that word. I do not think our elected political heroes think that it means what you think that it means.

    o·ver·sight
    noun
    1.
    an unintentional failure to notice or do something.
    "He said the committee's failure to pay the least bit of attention to the actions of the three-letter agency was an oversight"
    synonyms: mistake, error, omission, lapse, slip, blunder;

    Vs.

    2.
    the action of overseeing something.
    "effective oversight of the financial reporting process"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2017 @ 12:57pm

      Re:

      Ha! "Oversight", indeed.

      Now all that's left for us to do is to update definition 1. by editing the word "unintentional" to "intentional" to reflect the reality of this particular situation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2017 @ 12:05pm

    What Mike is failing to understand is that there is no hypocrisy involved. Rep Nunnes knows all the spying is all well and good so long as it only involves the little people. Where the problem occurs is where the government agencies got out of line and dared to spy on an elite. That is just unacceptable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 16 Mar 2017 @ 12:08pm

      Re:

      Sounds like the very definition of hypocrisy.

      Also, not any elite, but select elites from one's preferred pool.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 16 Mar 2017 @ 12:20pm

        Re: Re:

        From our position yes, but I think the point the AC is making is that to Nunes and those like them there's no hypocrisy because the public and the powerful are two distinct groups, and as such it's only right that there be two different sets of rules to deal with them.

        Doesn't make it any less hypocritical or disgusting, but it would explain why Nunes doesn't seem to see it as such, because it's quite possible that the two are completely unrelated in his mind, not two categories of the same group but two distinct and separate groups, such that while it's wrong to spy on one group(the powerful) it's perfectly acceptable to spy on another(everyone else).

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          TechDescartes (profile), 16 Mar 2017 @ 1:08pm

          Re: Re: Re: We've Been Here Before

          First, we had Senator Dianne Feinstein upset when the CIA spied on her office. Then we had former Rep. Pete Hoekstra upset when the NSA may have spied on Congress. Now, we have Rep. Nunes.

          At the same time, we have Ars Technica reporting that the CIA developed board games to train their officers. When one group of agents was found to be cheating at the game, the article states:

          "That's real human behavior," CIA Chief Strategy Officer Rachel Grunspan says. "If you design a game right, you’ll see a lot of complexity organically emerge. That’s what you want."

          It's not cheating. It's "organic complexity." Probably gluten-free, too.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            That One Guy (profile), 16 Mar 2017 @ 1:23pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: We've Been Here Before

            Cheating, breaking the rules laid before you is 'what you want' in the people you're training for the CIA.

            Oh yeah, that is exactly the kind of mindset I want to see in people working for a major government agency, the idea that rules are optional and that those who cheat are to be lauded.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              TechDescartes (profile), 16 Mar 2017 @ 1:45pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: We've Been Here Before

              While we debate the Congressional version, apparently this is the version provided to the NSA, CIA, and FBI:

              Executive Order 12333

              Whatevs.

              It'd be funny if it wasn't so scary.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2017 @ 2:01pm

      Re:

      "What Mike is failing to understand is that there is no hypocrisy involved..."


      Agree. Congressman Nunes is not an anomaly in the system-- the system itself is corrupt.

      Nunes does not operate alone... and could be easily countered if other Congressmen (and Senators) disagreed with him.
      The focus on selected bad actors in government misses the big picture. What is Mike's preferred solution to the overall problem here?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 16 Mar 2017 @ 3:02pm

        Re: Re:

        Nunes does not operate alone... and could be easily countered if other Congressmen (and Senators) disagreed with him.

        And a good way to get that to happen is to call him(or any of the others) out when he does something wrong/stupid/hypocritical, such that the others see that doing the same is going to get them in trouble and dogpile on those engaging in such activity in order to score some easy PR, and/or avoid doing so themselves to avoid the same fate.

        The focus on selected bad actors in government misses the big picture. What is Mike's preferred solution to the overall problem here?

        Not sure about Mike, but I'd say that focus on selected bad actors is much more likely to be effective than focusing on 'the big picture' in situations like this.

        Yes the system in general is corrupt, but if you go at it as a whole you're not likely to get much done, there's just too many bits and pieces to make going after them all at once effective, with your efforts spread too thin to accomplish much. Instead you want to focus on those 'bits and pieces', the individuals, and address the individual components where your efforts can be more effective. As you 'fix' individual problems things in general will hopefully get better, making future efforts easier to manage.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Shilling, 16 Mar 2017 @ 12:17pm

    Don't understand the problem either way. I assume the Russian diplomat was being spied on which is perfectly fine i assume as he is not an american. So if you do not want to be spied upon do not interact with foreigners. Not that that will help but atleast you have actual grounds too complain if conversations between Americans come out.

    Happy freedoms.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2017 @ 12:22pm

    Maybe Nunes made the mistake of overseeing 12333!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2017 @ 12:24pm

    For starters, do you expect politicians to stick with a position, even when they're persuaded it was the wrong position to take?

    Secondly, if you actually read what he's saying, he's concerned with the leaking of classified info. Which is against the law. And should be investigated.

    Showing your bias much?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2017 @ 1:23pm

      Re:

      Secondly, if you actually read what he's saying, he's concerned with the leaking of classified info

      If he was concerned about it during the Trump campaign, it must've only been with respect to Hillary's emails.

      Because I didn't hear him say jack shit when Trump said he loved WikiLeaks - you remember, the site that actually published classified info on multiple occasions:

      November 2009 - WikiLeaks posts what it claims are 500,000 messages sent during the September 11, 2001 attacks.

      April 5, 2010 - A classified military video is posted by WikiLeaks. It shows a US Apache helicopter firing on and killing two journalists and a number of Iraqi civilians in 2007. The military claimed that the helicopter crew believed the targets were armed insurgents, not civilians.

      July 25, 2010 - WikiLeaks posts more than 90,000 classified documents relating to the Afghanistan war in what has been called the biggest leak since the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War. The documents are divided into more than 100 categories and touch on everything from the hunt for Osama bin Laden to Afghan civilian deaths resulting from US military actions.

      October 22, 2010 - WikiLeaks publishes nearly 400,000 classified military documents from the Iraq War, providing a new picture of how many Iraqi civilians have been killed, the role that Iran has played in supporting Iraqi militants and many accounts of abuse by Iraq's army and police.

      April 24, 2011 - Nearly 800 classified US military documents obtained by WikiLeaks reveal details about the alleged terrorist activities of al Qaeda operatives captured and housed in Guantanamo Bay.

      September 2, 2011 - WikiLeaks releases its archive of more than 250,000 unredacted U.S. diplomatic cables.

      Sorry - but the moral high ground regarding classified information was lost the moment that loofa-faced shit-gibbon said "I love WikiLeaks" and no one even blinked.

      Take that "bias" shit and shove it straight up your hypocritical ass.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Kal Zekdor (profile), 16 Mar 2017 @ 11:38pm

      Re:

      I won't go so far as to say expect, I'm not that naive, but I certainly demand politicians who don't accidentally stumble into a correct stance merely because something became personal for them. It galls me to no end when politicians are imperiously ignorant to the consequences of their actions, so long as those consequences don't touch them personally. It clearly shows that they don't see themselves as the servant of their constituents, but as the rightful occupant of a seat of power. This isn't about fucking bias. Whether "12333 needs oversight" is a correct position is completely fucking irrelevant. That he came to that position not through the wishes of his constituents, but because his personal power was challenged should fucking alarm and infuriate you. That's how a ruling class behaves, something we should not, and must not tolerate.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 16 Mar 2017 @ 12:44pm

    International LAW and Laws of other nations..

    " to fill in the gaps of what they can't get via 12333. Executive Order 12333, for example, was used to hack into Yahoo and Google's servers overseas, allowing the NSA to scoop up lots of info without any oversight by US courts. "

    THIS can get USA corps and our Gov. in ALLOT of trouble..
    Private companies letting another countries Intelligence agencies FREE access to READ/WATCH/SPY in and ON those MAIN SERVERS...this is not good.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    aerinai (profile), 16 Mar 2017 @ 2:20pm

    Semi-Off Topic But Not

    How hilarious will it be if Trump uses the data scooped up from EO12333 to 'prove' that Obama was spying on him? I mean, let's be honest, we all know there is stuff in there from him (and likely all of ours as well). It wouldn't take much of a stretch to spin it... But as per usual... the executive order would stay in place and be used and abused by this administration, all hypocrisy somehow flying right over their heads....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 17 Mar 2017 @ 7:01am

      Re: Semi-Off Topic But Not

      Inb4 me. Indeed, I bet they've got a ton of very interesting nuggets from his conversations with assorted shady characters from overseas...

      ...I mean, how COULDN'T they? It's legal to spy on foreigners. Well now that he has noticed that this means he and his cadre are also being spied on, when does he plan on issuing an executive order to shut that crap down? Because that's all he needs to do. Yet he has not. Something something something smokescreen...

      ...this is not about distracting the public from his party's throwing the elderly off their healthcare programs, is it?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 16 Mar 2017 @ 11:08pm

    US GOV.

    HAS the mentality to THINK...
    That 'If we sit OUTSIDE the USA and the EU, in Countries that DONT have the same laws, WE can do anything we want, TO OUR OWN PEOPLE'
    And the statement "ALL men are created EQUAL, " has no standing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Wyrm (profile), 17 Mar 2017 @ 9:07am

    "Many intelligence activities conducted under E.O. 12333 predate the creation of the PCLOB (...)"

    So, according to him, it will be forever impossible to create an oversight commission because any such entity would be created after the EO 12333.

    How serious can that argument be? Or is he just trolling?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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